Posts Tagged ‘rebellion’

Marlon Brando is Johnny Strabler, the leader of a motorbike gang who arrive in the (fictional) town of Wrightsville, California, and, initially just being boisterous are welcomed (or at the least, tolerated) by the residents.  However, when the gang’s behaviour turns dangerous and threatening, the town’s residents decide to take matters into their own hands.  Meanwhille, Johnny meets a young woman named Kathie (played by Mary Murphy), who works in the local cafe, and despite their very different background and lifestyles, there is an attraction between them.

I wasn’t sure whether I would really like this film, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  Brando epitomises 50s rebellion, and (sorry to be shallow) he oozes sex appeal.  I loved his portrayal of Johnny, as a man who is more than what he appears on the surface; it’s clear that Johnny has not known much love and affection in his life, and is looking for something to rebel against (when asked, “What are you rebelling against?” he answers, “Whaddaya got?”).  He almost steals every scene he is in, and would have done, were it not for the fine performance of Mary Murphy as Kathie, who is very attracted to Johnny, but doesn’t understand his lifestyle.  Robert Keith is also notable for his role as Chief Bleeker, the town’s only law enforcement officer, who seems unable to cope with the gang.

The story takes place over just a few days, and despite feeling somewhat aged (but come on, this film is 61 years old!), the film captures the tension and claustrophobic atmosphere of the town.

Overall, this was a pleasant surprise for me, and a film that I would definitely recommend, not only for it’s excellent performances, but also for being a classic, and one of the first films to highlight the issue of gang violence.

Year of release: 1953

Director: Laslo Benedek

Producer: Stanley Kramer

Writers: Frank Rooney (short story), John Paxton, Ben Maddow

Main cast: Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith, Lee Marvin, Jay C. Flippen, Hugh Sanders, Ray Teal

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Chloe and Sue are twins.  They are blonde, beautiful, and identical.  But although they look the same, they are very different.  Chloe is pleasant, anxious to do well at school, desperate to be liked and eager to look nice.  Sue on the other hand, is abrasive – and downright horrible most of the time – rude and spiteful.  She cares little about school, or about anything at all other than Chloe.  Sue resents Chloe’s need for independence and other friends, and wants Chloe to want Sue, and nobody else.  Not even their brother, not even their parents.  As they grow increasingly apart, while always drawn together, Chloe and Sue both seem set on  path to doom.  This book follows them through their teenage years, through eating disorders, romantic entanglements, unexpected friendships, and lost dreams.

This book started well – the chapters are narrated by Sue and Chloe in turn, and I felt that the characters were well drawn, and distinctive.  Chloe actually seemed rather bland, at the start of the story, whereas Sue, though a far more interesting character, was completely unlikeable, with almost no redeeming features.  It actually felt uncomfortable to read some parts, where for example, she was very spiteful to people, and cruel to the poor family dog.  However, Sue’s behaviour is somewhat understandable when the parents’ characters are introduced – because the twins’ parents are just horrible, selfish people.  I actually felt myself getting angry with these characters while reading the book – they seemed to care little for any of their children  and were only bothered about making themselves happy.  The character in the family who I most warmed to was the twin’s brother Daniel.  He champions Sue, although she rarely sees it, and despite his hostility, obviously genuinely cares for his sisters.

For the most part, the book was compulsively readable, and touched on many adolescent issues, such as obsession with looks, the desire to ‘fit in’ and the need for individuality, while trying to forge a path towards adulthood.

However, towards the end, I found that some of the situations which the twins ended up in were slightly unbelievable, and I started tiring of both girls, and just wanting to sit them down and talk some sense into them.  I appreciated the fact that the book didn’t tie everything up neatly, but did still give some sense of conclusion.

I think I would probably read more by Marcy Dermansky – she certainly has a way of writing which draws you in, and creates interesting, if not always pleasant characters.  If you don’t mind all the teenage angst, this book is well worth a look.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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After one too many run-ins with the law, rebellious Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is sent to the Vickerman Gymnastics Association, as part of her sentence.  She encounters a lot of hostility from the other gymnasts there, because years earlier, when she had been a very promising gymnast, she had walked away from a competition, causing the whole team to be disqualified.  Now that she’s back, some people find it hard to forgive – and Haley’s attitude does not help matters; she doesn’t want to be there, and scorns those who dedicate so much of their lives to the discipline.  But coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges) is determined to get through to her, and to set her back on the straight and narrow…

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of this movie, but I did enjoy it.  Haley is quite a stereotypical character, but Missy Peregrym gives her a lot of heart and character, and it was hard not to root for her.  Jeff Bridges – who can always be relied upon to give an excellent performance – is a lot of fun and seems to relish his role as the firm but fair Vickerman.  Vanessa Lengies, Nikki SooHoo and Maddy Curley play their supporting roles well.

The ending was less predictable than you might expect.  I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen, but there was a twist in there which I didn’t predict, and which actually seemed a little at odds with what had gone before it, despite being good fun.

The soundtrack was terrific – lots of punchy and vibrant dance music, and the gymnastic routines were fabulous to watch.

Overall, this isn’t a movie which is going to change your life.  You probably won’t have any great epiphany after watching it.  But you will probably end up dancing around your living room with a huge smile on your face.  It’s an enjoyable movie and a great way to pass a couple of hours.

Year of release: 2006

Director: Jessica Bendinger

Writer: Jessica Bendinger

Main cast: Jeff Bridges , Missy Peregrym, Vanessa Lengies, Nikki Soohoo

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This is a very moving story which made me feel angry and sad while I was reading it.

The book is narrated by Chief Bromden, a patient at a mental institution.  He is believed by staff and fellow patients to be deaf and dumb, but the truth (as we find out on page one) is that he is not, and is therefore perhaps more aware of what is going on around him some of the other patients.

Nurse Ratched rules her ward in the institution with a system of fear and intimidation.  Her coldness and cruelty is very apparent early on in the story. Such is her reign of fear that none of the inmates dare stand up to her.  Even the ward Doctor – her superior – is terrified of defying her.

Into this regime comes Randle P McMurphy, criminal, gambler and unlikely hero.  McMurphy has chosen to come to the institution in lieu of serving a custodial sentence on a work farm.  He believes that it will be a breeze, and expects almost a holiday camp.  As he finds out, the reality is very different.  He is shocked, not only by the nurse’s treatment of the patients, but by the way they just accept it.

McMurphy encourages to the men to start thinking for themselves, but this is something which does not go down at all well with the nurse, and her effort to maintain control over the patients leads to a drastic conclusion.

The characterization in this book is excellent.  It was clever on the part of the author to make McMurphy a not altogether likable man – it would have been too easy to turn him into a classic hero; instead we have a man who rebels against authority, is a known criminal, and encourages others to act out (albeit for their own good).  Nurse Ratched is a hateful character, although sadly, all too believable.  Her pleasure in intimidating the patients, and her frustration at finding someone who is not scared of her, is almost palpable.  Chief Bromden is also vividly portrayed – unsurprisingly, as the book is told from his point of view.

Well written, touching and even funny at times, this is a book I wish I had read a long time ago, and certainly intend to read again in the future.  I would also recommend watching the film adaptation, starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy.

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